What you need to know as Chauvin trial starts Monday – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

Posted: March 7, 2021 at 1:22 pm

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, starts Monday.

The trial is expected to attract heavy attention from national and international media as Floyds death sparked mass protests and unrest.

Heres what you need to know.

Monday is the first day of jury selection, which is scheduled to last for three weeks. Also Monday, a motion hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m.

On Friday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said that Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who is overseeing the trial, erred when he refused to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin that the prosecution wanted.

The matter has been sent back to Cahill for him to reconsider, and Cahill may issue a decision this weekend or early next week. It is unclear if Mondays hearing is about the third-degree murder charge or what effect a third-degree charge will have on the start of trial, if any.

The process of selecting a jury is called voir dire, which is French for to see and to say. Prospective jurors will take an oath promising to answer questions truthfully. Questions can be asked to the jury in a written questionnaire and orally in the courtroom. The prosecution and defense can challenge potential jurors for cause if they think there is a clear reason why they should not qualify.

If a potential juror isnt dismissed for cause, then the prosecution and defense can decide if they want to use a peremptory challenge to strike someone from the jury without needing to provide a reason why. Prosecutors have nine of these challenges while the defense has 15.

Something that may come up during jury selection is a Batson challenge, which occurs when either side suspects the other side is striking potential jurors based on race or sex. The judge decides if the potential juror should stay if this challenge is used. The Batson challenge has no limit on the amount of times it can be used.

Jury selection is expected to last about three weeks, but it could be shorter or longer than that. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the process will likely take longer than usual because fewer people can be in the courtroom at one time.

The 12-person jury will be made up of individuals who live in Hennepin County. And there will be up to four alternate jurors. Jurors are required to consider all evidence presented to them instead of their feelings and beliefs.

Richard Frase, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said that while it may be hard to imagine how to find jurors who dont have their minds made up on the case, it is possible.

Hennepin County is a large county, Frase said, and it includes rural areas in addition to urban ones. Some who live in rural parts of the county may not be as aware of the case or follow Twin Cities media as closely as those living in Minneapolis.

The further out you are, the less things that happen in Minneapolis concern you, Frase said. So theres gonna be plenty of potential jurors that really dont know much about this case.

However, Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, said he believes it will be hard to find jurors who arent up to speed on the case. Osler said the judge likely will be careful and meticulous when questioning the jury, and it may well take longer than an average jury selection.

Chauvin is charged with one count of second-degree felony murder and one count of second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd, 46. Heres a deeper look into the charges Chauvin will face at trial.

Prosecutors also tried to reinstate a third-degree murder charge and Fridays Court of Appeals ruling opens the door to that. Legal experts say that prosecutors likely want to have as many shots at a conviction as possible.

Yes, he will be present as well as his attorney, Eric Nelson.

The prosecution team consists of Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, Special Attorney for the State Neal Katyal and a number of others.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellisons office is prosecuting the case, but Ellison is not expected to make legal arguments during the trial, although he may be in the courtroom at times.

Its unknown at this time if Chauvin will testify. His attorney is not required to give notice if Chauvin intends to until the time comes for him to testify.

Thats maybe the biggest mystery in this case, Osler said.

Defendants are not required to testify under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The trial will be held at Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.

As part of security measures, fences and barricades are being put up around the government center and Minneapolis City Hall. Officials are planning to bring thousands of sheriffs deputies, police officers as well as the Minnesota National Guard to the area.

Osler said security at this trial is unlike anything seen before at a court proceeding in the Twin Cities.

Due to COVID-19 regulations and the high-profile nature of this case, access in the courtroom is extremely limited.

There are two seats for members of the media, which will be rotated out each day. Other media members will work across the street.

There also is one seat in the courtroom available for a member of Floyds family each day, and one seat for a member of Chauvins family. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, said in a tweet that the Floyd family was disappointed that only one family member is allowed inside the courtroom at a time.

Members of the general public will not be admitted into the courtroom as the trial will be broadcast.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a news conference on Feb. 24 that there will be designated areas outside of the Hennepin County Government Center for individuals to protest and gather.

Activists have criticized the citys plans to have a large police presence downtown.

Yes. Cahill ordered in November that the trial will be recorded, broadcast and live-streamed in audio and video. Most local and some national television news organizations are expected to carry the trial live.

According to Cahills Nov. 4 court order, members of the jury will be kept anonymous from the public.

They will be partially sequestered during the trial, and will be escorted to and from their vehicles before and after each trial day. They will be ordered to avoid speaking with the media. Jurors may be fully sequestered during the trial if the partial sequester plan isnt effective in keeping jurors from outside influence, the court order says.

The jury will be fully sequestered while they deliberate the verdict.

The names, addresses and other identifying information of jury members will be kept private during the trial.

Opening statements in Chauvins case are scheduled to begin no earlier than March 29.

The prosecution will present their opening argument first, as they carry the burden of proof because Chauvin is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

During opening statements, prosecuting attorneys will give an overview of what they will be arguing during the trial, and what types of experts or witnesses they will call and what evidence they will present. The defense may make their opening statements as soon as the prosecution finishes theirs, or they can wait until the prosecution argues their whole case.

The prosecution and defense will call witnesses and experts and present evidence as part of their arguments.

As with opening statements, the prosecution will go first. Each witness or expert will be directly examined by the side that called the person to the stand, and the other side will have an opportunity to cross-examine them.

The prosecution and defense will then make closing statements, with the prosecution going first again. However this time, the prosecution may also speak after the defense gives their closing statement, giving the final word before the trial ends and the jury deliberates.

The prosecution has about 360 names on their witness list, while the defense has more than 200. Not all of those witnesses need to be or will be called.

The prosecutions list includes the three other former officers charged in Floyds death, as well as Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo; Darnella Frazier, the woman who recorded video of Floyds death outside Cup Foods; and Floyds brother Philonise Floyd.

According to legal experts, a lot of emphasis will be placed on Floyds autopsy and what caused his death.

Because Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamines in his system when he died as well as underlying health conditions, according to the autopsy, the defense is expected to argue those factors contributed to his death, rather than Chauvins actions. The defense likely will also argue that the force Chauvin used to restrain Floyd was necessary.

The video that widely circulated online of Chauvin kneeling on Floyds neck also is expected to be shown. Legal experts say the video greatly helps the prosecutions case.

Several legal experts agreed that this case is in the prosecutions favor. The video of Floyd as well as the nature of Minnesotas second-degree murder statute make the prosecutions case strong.

However, some legal experts say the case against the other three former officers who will be tried at a later time is much weaker.

Following three weeks of jury selection, there will be an estimated two to four weeks of trial.

This means a verdict from the jury could be expected around early to mid-April, but that timeline could change and stretch into May.

Its hard to predict what will happen until the jury reaches a verdict. If Chauvin is acquitted, the prosecution will not be able to appeal the case. If Chauvin is convicted, he can appeal.

Should Chauvin be found guilty by the jury, he will later be sentenced. The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 40 years and the maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter is 10 years. If Chauvin is convicted, he will only be sentenced for the most severe charge.

The other three former Minneapolis police officers charged in connection with Floyds death J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are scheduled to go to trial starting Aug. 23. They are all charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Legal experts say this trial is perhaps the most important trial of Minnesotas modern era.

First, because police officers are rarely charged in court. Its also rare for them to be convicted. In recent years, the only officer to be convicted of killing someone while on duty in Minnesota was Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017. He is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Second, race is a significant part of this case, Frase said. Chauvin is a white man who kneeled on Floyd, who was Black, for about nine minutes. Floyds death sparked mass protests across the country and the world against police brutality.

The result of this trial may have a significant impact on this movement worldwide.

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What you need to know as Chauvin trial starts Monday - TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

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